This list is my 30 favorite ambient albums of all time - only one album per artist. In general if I like one album from an artist, I love a bunch of them.
There is no order to this list. My definition of ambient includes beats. Both beat and beatless albums appear on this list.
I did this list because Kevin Renick is doing a new ambient survey on the Hyperreal Ambient Music list - which has been around since the mid-1990's. There have been several lists before. If you'd like to submit yours - read here.
Loren Nerell - The Venerable Dark Cloud
Label: Amplexus 1999
I'm very fortunate that Loren has become a friend of mine over the years. I first heard The Venerable Dark Cloud borrowed from a friend back in 2000. Since then I've heard almost all of Loren's albums. Lilin Dewa is a close 2nd of his albums to me, but I'm going with my first album I heard from him.
Loren spent time in Bali and studied under master Gamelan teachers. Gamelan is a major piece of most of his albums along with field recordings, synths, acoustic instruments of all types. His music takes me on a journey - and I love that in music.
Woob - 1194
label: em:t 1994
This is the highlight of em:t for me - classic label. The first track on this album is pure chillout bliss... several sections - build up, ease down, gorgeous through and through.
The only part I don't like about this album is a woman screaming a couple times in one track. But hey! One little blip on an otherwise perfect album!
Carbon Based Lifeforms - Interloper
label: Ultimae - 2010
Ultimae is a truly awesome label - featuring "cinematic music" balancing ambient and trance and doing it so wonderfully. I've heard many, many albums from the label and they are all good - and many are great.
Interloper I can listen to over and over again. If you don't like beats in your ambient - well - listen to it anyway. ;)
Ishq - Orchid
label: Interchill / Dakini - 2001
There are so many good albums by Ishq (and other aliases Elve and Ishvara) but I go back to this one - the first one I heard and one I still spin on a regular basis.
Thomas Koner - Teimo / Permafrost
label: Mille Plateaux - reissue 1997
Original releases on Barooni 1992 and 1993
I think of the reissue and these being one release rather than the original two separately... so I'm listing the reissue. Beautiful drone ambient. Koner is also half of Porter Ricks.
David Sylvian - Alchemy An Index of Possibilities
label: Virgin 1985
w/ Hassell, Fripp, Sakamoto, Jansen, Wheeler, Czukay and more.
This is one of the albums that truly set me on the path of doing ambient instrumental music. A friend bought it on cassette and I dubbed it back in the mid-80's. I've since bought it a couple times in different formats.
Max Corbacho - Ars Lucis
label: AD21 2009
Max, Max, Max... what a wonderful person. I'm friends with him - but even if I'd never emailed him - this would be on my list. I've listened to Ars Lucis (and Breathstream) so many times I can't count. Beatless ambient.
Steve Brand - Over-soul
label: Pioneer Light 2013
Steve... he's my friend. He co-runs my label Relaxed Machinery. He designs all the covers for Relaxed Machinery and Earth Mantra. He's a freaking amazing musician - I pick this album as my pick - because it has more plays on my itunes counts by a couple than his others. You can't go wrong with Steve.